Truth: If you’re discussing how to amplify your brand to better target today’s empowered woman, chances are you weren’t marketing to her very well in the first place.
It’s become an industry imperative to redefine the way we market to women, but there isn’t a simple fix. Brands shouldn’t just add pink to the color palette, tack on a female empowerment hashtag or talk about gender equality like it just started mattering. It has always mattered. We’re only now choosing to address it.
The problem is that the majority of women (80 percent) don’t find brands trustworthy and 61 percent say it’s because they fail to live up to their promises. So, tacking on an “I’m with her” message won’t work unless you deliver proof to that promise.
Here is a great example. When vehicle airbags were first introduced they were heralded as the savior for reducing crash related injuries and fatalities. But on release, hundreds of women and children were injured (or worse) when the bags deployed. Why? Because male engineers designed them and didn’t think to test them out on a female frame. No female-sized crash test dummies even existed. For a long time, the average American guy represented us all. This changed when federal law established new testing procedures, but up until then the promise of the product was not entirely being met.
Brands often fall into a similar trap—failing to deliver on what they pledge. Now that they’re charged with activating programs that appeal to today’s fearless woman instead of yesterday’s stereotype, it’s more important than ever to gain her trust and appear genuine. Here are five guidelines to get it right:
1. Commit to building a long-term relationship. Don’t opt in and out of gendered elements. Give women the same level of credibility or respect you would to any audience and stick with it for the long haul. A great case is Chevrolet’s commitment to youth sports, in particular young women. For example, the recent GoalKeepers project partnered the brand with the Women’s Sports Foundation, famous icons and mentors to provide tools, tips and training for girls to set goals for their future and keep them.
2. Design experiences that fit into and improve her life instead of disrupt it. A woman spends time with brands that help her balance time, money and well-being. She is more likely to connect with a brand when an experience demonstrates that it (and its products) makes her life useful. You have to be specific about knowing your audience too—her lifestyle and her struggles and address these in all brand activations. And better yet, make sure you have someone that is representative of her working through the execution. Her insights are invaluable.
3. Make an impact with emotion. Maya Angelou, one of the greatest female role models once said, “people will forget what you said but will never forget how you made them feel.” The relationship consumers have with a brand is far more emotional than it was in the past. It’s no longer the brand dictating the terms—it’s the community. The community has an emotional incentive to share what the brand has produced, which generally translates to a recognition of a similar mindset and philosophy. Any activation has to strike an emotional chord for it to resonate. Last year’s Fearless Girl, the simple statuette erected on Wall Street facing the infamous charging bull, did just that. No words necessary.
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4. Storytelling is everything. Women want to support brands that share their attitudes on life. Consumers want to be able to see themselves in the story of the brand. Stories tie back to the brand’s philosophy which is then shared with their consumers. How consumers talk about it afterwards is at the heart of campaign success. CoverGirl’s Rantin’ & Raven event did this. The brand’s #GirlsCan initiative helps women and girls succeed in areas where they are currently underrepresented, including sports. To deliver on its promise, the brand cast, produced and broadcast the first all-female football game in pre-show history—outside the Baltimore Ravens NFL stadium and people talked about it—good and bad. That conversation means you are doing something right.
5. Trust, Trust and More Trust. Women value intimate relationships. She has to feel that the brand shares her beliefs if she is going to give it a moment of her time. She needs to trust it in order to develop a relationship, especially a long-term one. It’s this narrative that fuels many successful brands. Belvedere Vodka recently partnered with Janelle Monae’s Fem The Future initiative on a series of events to gather influential speakers and guests to advance awareness, inclusion and opportunities for women. It was integral to the success that the inaugural event be intimate and personal so that women felt safe to discuss tough issues, such as discrimination and harassment, openly and freely. The women needed to feel like they were among friends. Images and outcomes from the event were shared on social media, the #FemTheFuture hashtag was used after the event almost 6,000 times and total impressions online have reached over 231 million.
As brand stewards, it is our job to champion experiences that provide an impactful and inspiring connection between brands and the women that matter most to them. If we are thoughtful in how we design campaigns and activations, we can create a longer and stronger relationship with the consumer. In the end, we have to deliver on what we pledge or we end up with another crash test dummy that doesn’t live up to its promise.
Bruce Henderson is the Global Chief Creative Officer for Jack Morton.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2018 and has been frequently updated.